Friday, November 30, 2007


The journey was due to take 18 hours
The gorillas in a zoo
Four rare gorillas have been flown from South Africa to Cameroon, five years after they were illegally smuggled to Taiping Zoo in Malaysia.
The Malaysian authorities returned the four Western Lowland gorillas to South Africa in 2004 and they have since been kept at Pretoria Zoo.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare said the "Taiping Four" will now be taken to a wildlife sanctuary.
The male and three females were sedated before being put into giant crates.
The BBC's Francis Ngwa Niba says Cameroon's environment minister, along with a host of well-wishers, were at Doula International Airport to receive the gorillas.
"The return of the gorillas to Cameroon is a manifestation of Cameroon's commitment to... the conservation of nature," Elvis Ngole Ngole said.
Tinu, Izan, Oyin and Abbey, all six years old and weighing about 100kg each, are to be transported to the Limbe Wildlife Sanctuary in south-west Cameroon.
The vet who travelled with the animals said the journey had taken 18 hours from Johannesburg, which included a six-hour stopover in Nairobi, Kenya.

Enlarge Image
"These animals are doing pretty well," he told the BBC after the crates were loaded off the Kenyan Airways aeroplane.
"The break in Nairobi gave us an opportunity to feed them and care for them, so they were adequately rested," he said.
Ifaw's Christina Pretorious said the return of the Taiping Four sends a clear message that Africa wildlife is worth fighting for and that international law must be upheld.
"Africa's wildlife is disappearing from the earth right in front of our eyes," she told the AFP news agency.
Our correspondent says another welcome ceremony is planned for the gorillas in Limbe on Saturday, when people will be able to see the gorillas for themselves.
There are believed to be fewer than 100,000 Western Lowland gorillas in the wild. Their status was recently upgraded to critically endangered.
Gorillas and other primates are often hunted to be eaten in Cameroon and neighbouring countries.



EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has met Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili hours before reporting to the UN on the Iranian nuclear issue.
Mr Jalili said they had had "positive negotiations", but Mr Solana said he was disappointed with the talks.
Correspondents say the talks may determine whether the US and its allies press for more sanctions on Iran.
The UN has demanded Iran suspend uranium enrichment, but Tehran insists its programme is peaceful.
Some Western powers fear it is seeking to make weapons.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Mr Solana was looking for signs that the Iranians are prepared to suspend uranium enrichment experiments as demanded by the UN Security Council, but his comments after the talks suggest there has been no progress on the issue.
The UN had earlier commissioned two reports on Iran's nuclear programme - one from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the other from Mr Solana.

Ahead of the talks, Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham did say that Mr Jalili would "present new ideas and initiatives" to Mr Solana.
However, on Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted Iran was "a nuclear nation", adding: "After this, no-one can threaten the Iranian nation as we have all stood united so far and [the West] did not do anything."
The BBC's Pam O'Toole says there is a distinct air of pessimism around the latest talks, given that Iran has on a number of occasions announced proposals and suggested initiatives while continuing to defy the UN on uranium enrichment.
Mr Solana has himself appeared frustrated that his talks with Mr Jalili have been frequently delayed.
Mr Jalili, a close ally of Mr Ahmadinejad, recently replaced Ali Larijani, who resigned as chief nuclear negotiator amid reports of differences with the leadership.



Gillian Gibbons has been imprisoned for 15 days in Sudan - a country with "the worst prisons in the world", according to campaigners.
Justice Africa, a UK-based research group, said even a Sudanese person, used to the hardship of daily life, would find conditions hard.
Sudan co-ordinator Hafiz Mohammed said guards "treated inmates like slaves".
However, observers point out that some categories of prisoners can receive preferential treatment.
The Sudanese authorities have frequently refused prison inspections by international agencies.
Mrs Gibbons was jailed for 15 days by a court in Khartoum for being guilty of insulting religion after naming a teddy bear Muhammad.
She is expected to be held at Omdurman, the largest women's prison in Sudan and usually full of women convicted of making and selling alcohol.
Although Mr Mohammed said there was a possibility she may be given special treatment, he said she will have "a very difficult time" in an institution without beds, clean drinking water and with such poor quality food that she'll be unlikely to eat it.
"Prisons are overcrowded, there are no roofs so most of the women have to use sheets to keep the sun off them.
"It's not divided into cells but just one large area with one wall surrounding them."
Mr Mohammed said Mrs Gibbons would find hygiene "very poor, and she won't be able to drink from the taps. She'll have to rely on bottled water and food brought to her."
Relatives of Sudanese inmates are allowed to bring food and water to the prison.
"But it's very difficult even for the Sudanese people who are used to living in the harsh conditions of the country."

According to the US State Department's report on human right practices, Sudan's prisons are "harsh and overcrowded".
The report from 2006 says: "Most prisons were old and poorly maintained, and many lacked basic facilities such as toilets or showers.
"Health care was primitive; prisoners usually relied on family or friends for food. Prison officials arbitrarily denied visits to prisoners."
But it pointed out: "High-ranking political prisoners reportedly often enjoyed better conditions than did other prisoners."
It also reported that security forces "routinely mistreated persons in custody.
"There were credible reports that security forces held detainees incommunicado; beat them; deprived them of food, water, and toilets; and forced them to sleep on cold floors."



The FBI said more than $20m has been stolen via botnets. Police in New Zealand have questioned a teenager believed to be the ringleader of an international cyber-crime group. The group is alleged to have infiltrated more than one million computers and skimmed millions of dollars from people's bank accounts.

The teenager, who is 18, cannot be named for legal reasons but was known by an alias as "Akill".
He was detained as part of an FBI crackdown on hi-tech criminals who run botnets - networks of hijacked PCs. Global crackdown After being questioned "Akill" was released without charge, but police say he is still being investigated. Police allege that he was responsible for setting up a global network of hijacked PCs - known as a botnet.

The term describes the process of installing malicious software on PCs around the world to collect information such as login names, bank account details and credit card numbers. The FBI estimates that 1.3 million computers were under the control of "Akill" and more than US$25m (£12.1m) was illegally embezzled.

The FBI is running a campaign against botnet controllers"Akill" was still at school when his hacking allegedly began, and he is said to be very bright and very skilled. The 18-year-old was detained in New Zealand's North Island city of Hamilton. He could face charges which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The arrest comes as part of the FBI's Operation Bot Roast II - the second phase of its campaign to tackle those who set up and run botnets for criminal gain. The running total of money stolen by the botnets is $20m (£9.7m).

The botnets were used to commit a variety of crimes. Some were simply used to steal saleable personal data, others acted as relays for spam and phishing and some were used to flood other websites with data to knock them offline. The first phase of the FBI campaign identified more than one million computers in the US that were part of botnets and produced several arrests. The second phase has resulted in three new indictments of people that ran botnets; jail sentences for three others and guilty pleas from a further two botnet controllers.

To stay safe, the FBI urged PC users to install and maintain anti-virus software, employ a firewall, use strong passwords and not open unknown attachments on e-mail messages.






Even the youngest children are not spared from violence. An 11-month-old baby girl has died in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo a day after she was raped, the UN says. The alleged rapist, a man aged 20, has been detained by Congolese police about 140km west of Goma. He faces a life sentence.

Reports of the atrocity came as the Red Cross held a news conference in Geneva to denounce the "systematic violence" against girls and women in DR Congo. Aid workers blame combatants on all sides for a culture of sexual violence. ICRC official Dominik Stillhart said that in his recent visit to eastern DR Congo, he found some 370,000 people had been driven from their homes since fighting resumed in December between the army and fighters loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda.

"What really shocked me personally the most, was the systematic violence especially against women and girls which is producing immense suffering," Mr Stillhart said. The UN Mission in Congo (Monuc), which told the BBC of the latest rape atrocity, have themselves been accused by lobby group Human Rights Watch, of failing to act against the widespread use of rape against civilian victims of all ages. The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman heard the harrowing story of one young victim.

Victims say the army dispenses summary justice to rapists. A six-year-old girl named Mushika told our correspondent she was looking after goats in her village when a soldier grabbed her and abused her. "He laid me on the ground and lifted my skirt... I was trying to shout but he put his hand on my mouth. After he had finished, he ran away. When I tried to walk, I was dizzy." When the girl's mother discovered what happened she took the child to the military camp where she was asked to point out the man.

"The soldier was then shot in front of me," Mushika said, "but later his uncle came to our home and threatened to kill the whole family to take revenge." Some 15,000 UN peacekeepers are in DR Congo to secure peace after a five-year conflict officially ended in 2002.

But violence continues to rage in the east.



A bag belonging to a World War II soldier from Lancashire has been discovered in the Egyptian desert after lying there for more than 60 years.
Alec Ross, from Burnley, lost the bag containing personal letters and photos, while serving with the 8th Army.
Egyptian tour guide Kahled Makram found the bag in the Sahara desert and traced Mr Ross's family through a BBC website on World War II.
The bag is being sent to Burnley to Mrs Ross's sister, Irene Porter.
Mr Ross, who settled in Whaddon, Buckinghamshire, after the war and died three years ago at the age of 87, was a despatch rider in the Long Range Desert Group.
According to Mrs Porter, who was only eight years old when he was serving in Egypt, her brother was a member of a unit known as Popski's Private Army, one of a number operating behind enemy lines.
She has been able to read the letters - sent by her parents, herself and her brother's two girlfriends - from photographs put onto disc by Mr Makram.
Mrs Porter, 75, of Burnley, said: "I was stunned when I found out about this and it is just incredible the way the bag has come to light.
"I will be so pleased when I can actually hold the letters in my hand and feel something my mother actually wrote to Alec all those years ago.
Photos and letters were found in the bag which was lost 65 years ago.
"I just wish the bag had been found a few years earlier so that Alec could have been reunited with its contents.
"He would have been thrilled, if a little embarrassed about having had two girlfriends on the go."
Tourist Geoff Kolbe, who helped track Mrs Porter down, is now trying to arrange for Mr Makram to go to Lancashire to personally hand the bag over.
Mr Kolbe said he was on a tour of the Sahara desert in the south west corner of Egypt at Gilf Kebir "when the guide happened to mention that he had recently found the bag of a soldier who had been serving in World War II lying in the sand.
"He said he had put some details on an internet search engine and had found Mrs Porter's account of her brother serving in Egypt but didn't know how to get in contact with her.
"When I returned home I contacted the website and managed to get hold of Mrs Porter to tell her about the find."


Thursday, November 29, 2007


Chinese state media has carried a rare report of disturbances in Tibet. Almost 200 people were involved in a riot following an argument between Buddhist monks and a local shopkeeper, Xinhua news agency said.
Shops and government offices were reportedly destroyed in the riot, which took place more than a week ago.
The agency said two Buddhist monks had been among seven people arrested. Xinhua gave no reason for the delay in reporting the riot.
The two monks were accused of robbing a Chinese-run motorcycle maintenance shop on 19 November in the town of Paingar, about 300km (190 miles) north-east of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, Xinhua reported.
Five other people were arrested for "fanning the riot" the day after the monks' arrest.
About 190 people, including monks, gathered outside local government headquarters to demand the release of those arrested.
The crowd then "destroyed shops and government facilities", Xinhua said.
The agency reported that crowds had been "persuaded to return home later the same day by government workers".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told Reuters news agency that that the situation in Tibet was now stable.
"Anyone who tries to disrupt Tibet's stability and development will not have the support of the people and will not succeed," he said.
Analysts say a growing population of Chinese settlers in Tibet has resulted in increased ethnic tensions in the province.



Mr Bush wants a Middle East peace deal by the end of 2008. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said failure to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians would spell the end of the State of Israel.
He warned of a "South African-style struggle" which Israel would lose if a Palestinian state was not established.
Mr Olmert was returning from the Annapolis conference in the US where he and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pledged to launch formal peace talks.
The two leaders set a goal of reaching a peace deal with US support in 2008.
US President George W Bush called Annapolis, the first substantive Arab-Israeli peace talks in seven years, a "hopeful beginning" for Mid-East peace.
Mr Olmert said it was not the first time he had articulated his fears about the demographic threat to Israel as a Jewish state from a faster growing Palestinian population.
He made similar comments in 2003 when justifying the failed strategy of unilateral withdrawals from Israeli-occupied land which holds large Palestinian populations.
"If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished," Mr Olmert is quoted saying in Haaretz newspaper.
After the ceremonies at Annapolis and the White House, the US appointed former Nato commander Gen James Jones as its new Middle East envoy.
Among his tasks will be to monitor how the Israelis and Palestinians live up to the security commitments made under the relaunched international peace plan known as the roadmap, which forms the basis for the negotiations.
"Building security in the Middle East is the surest path to making peace in the Middle East," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said of his appointment.
"Gen Jones is the best individual to lead our efforts in this essential endeavour."
Mr Bush promised to use American power "to help you as you come up with the necessary decisions to lay out a Palestinian state that will live side-by-side in peace with Israel".
According to the agreement, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will meet every other week and teams of negotiators led by a joint steering committee will meet on 12 December.

Ignoring Hamas and the Iranian regime could increase their popularity in the Arab world
Shahram, Isfahan
Send us your comments
Last year's Palestinian parliamentary election winner Hamas - which does not recognise Israel and has been shunned by the US and Israel as a terrorist organisation - immediately rejected Annapolis as a "failure".
There have been angry protests in the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas, and the West Bank since the summit.
Expectations had been low as representatives of more than 40 countries and international agencies gathered in Annapolis ahead of Tuesday's conference.
But in a joint statement concluded with only minutes to spare before the conference formally opened, the two sides agreed to launch negotiations for a treaty "resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception".
Both sides have said those "core issues" will include the thorny so-called "final-status issues" - the future of Jerusalem, borders, water, refugees and settlements - which have scuppered previous attempts at a peace deal.



Most Canadian oil exports to the US use Enbridge's pipelines. Oil prices have jumped after a fire shut down the main pipeline delivering Canadian crude oil to refineries in the US Midwest.
The blaze near Enbridge's Clearbrook oil terminal in Minnesota killed two employees, with local officials saying it could burn for three days.
Pipelines from Canada carry about 1.9 million barrels of oil per day and the closure has hit 20% of US oil imports.
A barrel of New York light crude oil rose $3.77, or 4.2%, to $94.39.
In London, Brent crude gained $2.23, or 2.5%, to $92.04.
The incident has reversed some of the recent price falls caused by the smaller than expected drop in US oil stockpiles.
"My initial impression is that (this) will put a halt to the slide in oil prices and put us back on the march towards $100 a barrel," said Mark Pervan, senior commodities analyst at ANZ.
"The timing is pretty bad. We are coming to the strongest demand period for crude with the approach of the northern winter."
Canada is the biggest supplier of foreign crude oil to the US and nearly all of it is delivered along Enbridge's pipelines.



Russian authorities also accuse Mr Berezovsky of plotting a coup. A Moscow court has found the exiled businessman Boris Berezovsky guilty of embezzling millions of dollars from the Russian national airline Aeroflot.
Mr Berezovsky, who has political asylum in Britain, controlled the airline in the 1990s.
The court said Mr Berezovsky had stolen 214m roubles (nearly $9m) from the airline, in what it described as an organised criminal fraud.
Mr Berezovsky told the BBC the verdict was "a farce".
He is a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin and Britain's refusal to extradite him has been one of several irritants straining relations between London and Moscow.
He made a huge fortune in the political and economic upheaval following the collapse of communism in the early 1990s.
Russian prosecutors have asked the court to jail him for nine years.
"This court has no significance for me or for those who abide by the law," Mr Berezovsky told "I instructed my lawyers not to participate in this farce."
Mr Berezovsky was a close associate of Russian former secret agent Alexander Litvinenko, whose fatal poisoning in London last year triggered a British-Russian diplomatic row.



A council has apologised to an 88-year-old widow after a street cleaner told her she could be fined for sweeping leaves from her porch. Betty Davies said the council worker had seen her sweeping the leaves and later knocked on her door in Splott, Cardiff. Mrs Davies said she was "lost for words" when told she could be fined, but was being let off with a warning. Cardiff Council said sorry and it would not fine people for sweeping leaves.

Mrs Davies said last Friday was a windy day, so she had decided to sweep the front of her house, where she has lived for 62 years. She said: "I swept the leaves out into the pavement and I came back into my house and shut the door. I'm 88 and although I can look after myself, I'm a pensioner and quite old -Betty Davies.

"A road sweeper, who was on the other side of the road, knocked on my door and when I answered he said 'you could be fined for doing that'. "I was lost for words - I just didn't know what to say. He then said 'I'm just giving you a warning this time'. "I went back inside and sat down and thought 'what a blimmin cheek'. "I'm 88 and although I can look after myself, I'm a pensioner and quite old." She added: "I've lived here for 62 years and that is the first time anything like that has happened. "I'm just glad I'm able to sweep up at my age."

Splott councillor Alex Evans said: "I think he (the road sweeper) is totally out of order and to have knocked her door, well that is a 'no, no'. "He shouldn't have done that but approached his management." A spokesman for Cardiff Council said: "The council apologises for the reported comments made to Betty Davies. "The council would not fine people for sweeping leaves on the highway from the front of their home."



In the run-up to World Aids Day on Saturday, the BBC is debating how Aids is affecting teaching in Africa. Kenyan teacher Margaret Wambete, 45, tells the BBC News website how finding out that she was HIV positive five years ago was shameful, but activism has turned her life around:

Margaret has been in good health since taking anti-retrovirals It was really hard in the beginning.
I didn't go willingly to be tested even though I was sick. I had TB [tuberculosis]. The children at school were all running away from me because I was so thin.
I frightened them and they called me "scarecrow".
And then when I discovered my status I told the head teacher in confidence.
But he breached my confidentiality and it was not long before everyone knew I was HIV positive.
My students were scared of me and were disrespectful - they refused to hand in assignments for marking and would not take orders from me.

My teaching colleagues were no better either.
People rejected me, saying they were not ready to bury me.
I suffered.
I kept being transferred from one school to another because of my status.
But before I arrived at a new school, my papers would have already arrived which stated that I was HIV-positive and so I would be met with hostility and moved on once more.
I never got to teach. I never gained acceptance in those days.
It took some time but after a while the stigma and discrimination I was facing stopped bringing me down and instead made me want to rise up.


HIV-positive people still have to earn a living. It is however important that patients are counselled and assessed to ensure that they do not pose any risk to their students
Annette, Uganda
Send us your comments

All of them, all those who had treated me the way they had, they had formed a challenge for me - I decided to fight their attitudes from the grassroots so people like me could be seen differently.
I wanted to unite HIV-positive people in Kenya to fight stigma and promote access to education, care, support, treatment. I wanted myself and others like me to be able to live positively with the virus.
My vision still is to empower HIV-positive teachers with social and economic support to ensure that their ability as those determining knowledge is not compromised.
I started the Kenya Network of HIV-Positive Teachers (Kenepote) in 2004, three years ago with support from Unesco and USAid.
Now we have about 3,000 members across Kenya's eight provinces.

We target stigma aggressively by holding workshops - teachers are ignorant of the available services and so don't want to come out because they are afraid of the repercussions.
If you as a teacher are sick and cannot make it into class to teach then because of absenteeism you can be sacked and removed from the registrar.
Whereas in fact there are policies in place to protect you.
But if you don't know this, then what can you do?
So that it is my task - to educate and hopefully bring acceptance.
And it is working well. The students react quite differently now - instead of shunning you - they come to you and tell you, "Please come to my home because I need you to speak to my father and mother. My father is sick."
Once statuses are known, conversations are more open. I do quite a lot of counselling.
The burden is shared.
And when I am in town these days I tend to go by car because if I walk on foot everyone wants to talk to me and it takes too long to get things done.
It is so strange how something that was so shameful at the beginning is now bringing me so much joy and pride.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007





Colleagues of Gillian Gibbons said she made an "innocent mistake". A British teacher has been charged in Sudan with insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs.
The Foreign Office has confirmed that charges have been laid against Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool.
She was arrested in Khartoum after allowing her class of primary school pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said he will summon the Sudanese ambassador "as a matter of urgency".
In a statement, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "surprised and disappointed" at the charges.
A spokesman said the first step was to "understand the rationale behind the charge", something which would be discussed by Mr Miliband and the ambassador as soon as possible.
"We will consider our response in the light of that," he added.
Lawyers say Mrs Gibbons faces six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine if convicted.
Sudanese state media said prosecutors had completed their investigation and decided to charge Mrs Gibbons under Article 125 of the Sudanese criminal code.

What can't be named Muhammad?

The BBC's Amber Henshaw, in Khartoum, said Mrs Gibbons was expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The Muslim Council of Britain reacted angrily to the news, saying it was "appalled" and demanded Mrs Gibbons' immediate release.
"This is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense. There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith," said Secretary-General Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, in a strongly-worded statement.
"We call upon the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, to intervene in this case without delay to ensure that Ms Gibbons is freed from this quite shameful ordeal," said Dr Bari.
Mrs Gibbons taught at the fee-paying Unity High School in Khartoum and the school's director, Robert Boulos, said earlier: "This is a very sensitive issue. We are very worried about her safety.
Earlier, the Sudanese Embassy in London said the situation was a "storm in a teacup" and signalled that the teacher could be released soon, attributing the incident to a cultural misunderstanding.
But Sudan's top clerics have called for the full measure of the law to be used against Mrs Gibbons and labelled her actions part of a Western plot against Islam.
"What has happened was not haphazard or carried out of ignorance, but rather a calculated action and another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam," the Sudanese Assembly of the Ulemas said a statement.
The semi-official clerics body is considered relatively moderate and is believed to have the ear of the Sudanese government.
Mrs Gibbons was arrested on Sunday after several parents made complaints to Sudan's Ministry of Education.
The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner said the situation could potentially become a very serious diplomatic incident.
Catherine Wolthuizen, chief executive of Fair Trials Abroad, told BBC News 24 that getting fair legal representation for Mrs Gibbons is a priority: "We are shocked and dismayed as I think many people are."



President Kikwete was tested at the start of the HIV testing campaign. There has been an outcry in Tanzania over a woman who was badly injured by her husband after she took an HIV test which is being encouraged nationwide.
Tumaini Mbogela said her husband beat her when she returned from a voluntary counselling centre in the town of Makete where she took the HIV test.
Rights activists say the attack was "uncalled for" and women do not need permission to check their HIV status.
Half of the 1.6m Tanzanians living with HIV are women, recent figures show.
Reports from Makete say the husband is on the run from the police.
Relatives claim that he is mentally confused after the realising that the law-enforcers were looking for him.
Nationwide testing
Women's rights activist Jostina Katunzi said 34-year-old Tamali Mbogella was responding to a nationwide drive when she went for an HIV test in Makete.
"Women are so concerned about their health and she was free to go for the test - I do not think she had to consult her husband," Ms Katunzi said.
The BBC's John Ngahyoma in Dar es Salaam says the Makete area is one of the worst-affected regions in Tanzania with a 24% HIV prevalence rate compared to 7% nationally.
When the health ministry launched a nationwide testing campaign in July, Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete was one of the first to take the HIV test.
Following the Makete case, the head of Tanzania's Commission for Aids, Taj Liundi, has advised married couples to consult each other before going for the test.
"This is an isolated case of a violent man and does not represent all men in Tanzania," Mr Liundi said.
"But we shall intensify our efforts to raise awareness of the importance of going for a test."
Mrs Mbogela has now been discharged from hospital, our correspondent says.



A US judge has been removed from the bench for jailing an entire courtroom audience after none of them admitted being responsible for a ringing phone.
Judge Robert Restaino was presiding over a domestic violence case in the city of Niagara Falls in March 2005.
A commission on judicial conduct said Judge Restaino had acted "without any semblance of a lawful basis" and behaved like a "petty tyrant".
The judge has said he was under stress in his personal life at the time.
He has 30 days to appeal against the commission's decision.

In its ruling on Tuesday, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended the removal of Judge Restaino for what its chairman called "two hours of inexplicable madness" on the morning of 11 March 2005.
It said the 48-year-old judge had been presiding over a series of domestic violence cases when he heard a mobile phone ring and "snapped".
"Every single person is going to jail in this courtroom unless I get that instrument now," he told the courtroom's audience, according to the commission.
"If anybody believes I'm kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while. You are all going."
Security officers then attempted to find the phone but failed.
After a brief recess, Judge Restaino returned to the bench and again asked who had been responsible for the ringing phone.
When no-one came forward, the judge ordered that the entire courtroom audience of 46 people be taken into custody and set bail at $1,500.
"This troubles me more than any of you people can understand," the judge explained.
"This person, whoever he or she may be, doesn't have a whole lot of concern. Let's see how much concern they have when they are sitting in the back there with all the rest of you," he added.
"Ultimately, when you go back there to be booked, you've got to surrender what you got on you. One way or another, we're going to get our hands on something."
One defendant, according to the report, told the judge: "This is not fair to the rest of us."
"I know it isn't," Judge Restaino replied.
The audience and defendants were then taken to Niagara City jail, where they were searched and packed into crowded cells.
Fourteen people who could not post bail were later shackled and transported to another prison.
He explained that he simply focused on attempting to locate the phone's owner and was frustrated by his inability to do so

It was only later in the afternoon, when reporters began to ask questions about the ruling, that Judge Restaino ordered their release.
The judge told the commission he had known that he had no legal basis for his actions and that they had been "improper and inexcusable".
"He explained that he simply focused on attempting to locate the phone's owner and was frustrated by his inability to do so," the commission said.
The judge told the panel he had been under stress in his personal life at the time of the incident, it added.
Nevertheless, the commission's administrator, Robert Tembekjian, said the fundamental rights of 46 people had been "deliberately and methodically violated" and insisted there could be no excuse.
The judge's lawyer, Terrence Connors, told the Associated Press that he would exercise his right to appeal the decision within 30 days. He will remain in office during that time.



American oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt has been sentenced to one year and a day in prison for conspiracy in the UN oil-for-food programme scandal.
The Texas oilman, aged 83, had agreed last month to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
He admitted he agreed to pay $200,000 (£97,000) into an Iraqi bank account.
Under the oil-for-food programme, some companies paid bribes to officials in Saddam Hussein's Iraq in order to secure contracts to buy oil.
The programme was established in the wake of sanctions imposed on Iraq after the country invaded Kuwait in 1990.
It allowed Iraq to sell oil in order to buy humanitarian provisions.
A UN-commissioned inquiry found that 2,200 companies in 66 countries paid $1.8bn in bribes to Iraqi officials to win oil contracts.
Under Mr Wyatt's plea bargain, prosecutors dropped four other charges against him and he agreed to the prison term and to forfeit $11m (£5.3m).
He is the most prominent figure to be jailed over the scandal.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Basic goods have disappeared from supermarket shelves. Zimbabwe's chief statistician has said it is impossible to work out the country's latest inflation rate because of the lack of goods in shops.
"There are too many data gaps," the Central Statistical Office's Moffat Nyoni told state media.
Many staple goods are often absent from shop shelves after the government ordered prices to be halved or frozen in a bid to stem galloping inflation.
September's inflation rate was put at almost 8,000%, the world's highest.
Other reports suggest the rate could be at near 15,000% and the International Monetary Fund had warned it could reach 100,000% by the end of the year.
Black market
Mr Nyoni said the Central Statistical Office has delayed the release of the inflation figure until an accurate way of calculating it can be found.
"We went to too many shops to observe and so compilations have not been completed," he said.
Maize meal, bread, meat, cooking oil, sugar and other basic goods used to measure inflation largely disappeared from shops after Robert Mugabe's government ordered prices to be slashed.
Manufacturers have said they cannot afford to sell goods at below the cost of producing them.
Most basics are intermittently available on the black market at well over the official prices.
Last month, the central bank offered loans, known as Bacossis, to businesses at 25% interest to restore supplies to shops, AP news agency reports.
"We hope the situation will improve, especially with the availing of Bacossi funds," Mr Nyoni said.



Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is now the clear favourite to become the next leader of the African National Congress, after receiving more nominations than any other candidate. This would put him in pole position to become South Africa's next president, in elections due in 2009.

And yet just two years ago, his political career was all but written off, when he was battling sleazy allegations of rape and corruption. But Mr Zuma was acquitted of rape - and the corruption case against him has been put on hold. His friends say the accusations against him were politically-motivated and it was not long before support rallied again around the ANC's most prominent left-winger. His supporters have never doubted that he had the popular touch. They contrast him to President Thabo Mbeki, seen as rather aloof.

Popular support for Zuma was unwavering though the court cases. "He is a man who listens; he doesn't take the approach of an intellectual king", said one unnamed supporter, in an apparent swipe at Mr Mbeki. Born in 1942 and brought up by his widowed mother in Zululand, Jacob Zuma had no formal schooling. He joined the ANC at the age of 17, becoming an active member of its military wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe, in 1962. He was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government and was imprisoned for 10 years on the notorious Robben Island. Mr Zuma subsequently left South Africa, living first in Mozambique, then Zambia as he rose through the ANC ranks to the executive committee, becoming one of the first leaders to return home in 1990 when the ANC was unbanned, to take part in negotiations with the white minority government.

He credits his political awakening to a family member who was an active trade unionist and throughout his political career, Mr Zuma has championed the rights of the people. His supporters believe the man they call JZ will redistribute South Africa's wealth in favour of the poor. Yet fears that a potential Zuma candidacy could have a negative influence on the economy and scare off foreign investors appear over-stated. Business leaders have told the BBC that they are not worried - they have received assurances from Mr Zuma that policy is set by the ANC conference, not the party leader, and he will abide by official party policy.

Securing the endorsement of the ANC Women's League - in defiance of an earlier league decision to put forward a female candidate for the party leadership - will have given a great boost to the Zuma campaign. Some analysts had predicted he would divide the women's vote, with many unwilling to forgive him for the admission that he had unprotected sex with the HIV-positive family friend at the centre of the rape case.

His statement that he showered afterwards to guard against possible infection provoked public criticism and ridicule in equal measure. The BBC's Mike Wooldridge says his apology appeared to do little to dilute the charge that Mr Zuma's judgement and integrity are questionable. And yet his popularity is undiminished. The outcome of the nominations process has been described on the Friends of Jacob Zuma website as having "confounded the analysts, revealing that the media and political commentators are out of touch with sentiment in the ANC."

Proof positive will come from the secret ballot at the ANC conference in Polokwane and if, as now seems likely, Mr Zuma emerges triumphant, then the party's most prominent Zulu will be favourite to succeed Thabo Mbeki as head of state in 2009.






NOne Russian woman dies at the hands of her husband or partner every hour, according to the human rights group Amnesty International. Last year there were more than 15,000 criminal cases in Russia against men accused of violent crimes against their wives. Campaigners say this is the tip of the iceberg. Violence is considered "normal", so few women report it and even fewer cases make it to court.
A few years ago the pop star Valeria made headlines when she wrote a personal account of domestic violence and took part in an international campaign against it. The BBC's Russian service has been speaking to some women who have survived domestic violence. For their own security, their names have been changed and photographs taken in a way that does not identify them.


"I believed it was normal to be beaten up." My husband would come home from work, often a little drunk. And he would hit me if something was wrong, like I forgot to take the garbage out or the soup for dinner was not warm enough. First he would just give me a blow on the head, not too hard. But gradually he got into the habit of hitting me harder and harder.
Why didn't I leave? First of all, because my husband and all our friends and relatives kept telling me: how will you survive alone with three small children? You will never be able to remarry. And also because everyone around me told me that it was completely normal. And with time I started to believe that it was normal to be beaten up and humiliated.
I woke up in hospital with small tubes sticking out of my stomach and drips in my veins.
I was like a fish in a tank: all alone. You open your mouth, try to say something, but nobody hears you. Everyone was just waving me off: this is nothing, it's your family business.
The last time he beat me up I woke up in hospital, with small tubes sticking out of my stomach and drips in my veins. I was told that I was in hospital and I had just been operated on. My first thought was: but how did I end up here? Oh, but I ended up here because I was beaten up by my husband. And why did he beat me up? Oh, because I was foolish enough to let him do it.
I managed to recover after all this violence. But it's better not to let things come to this. We should stand up to them. If a man hits a woman once and she doesn't leave him straight away, he will feel encouraged to hit her again, as nobody punished him for hurting another person.


"They appealed to me as fellow police; they wouldn't get a bonus."
After my husband beat me up really badly, I was in hospital for about a month. And all this time the police officer, the investigator and my ex-husband kept telling me that I shouldn't start criminal proceedings and that I shouldn't tell anyone about what happened.
The police hoped that I would withdraw my report. When they found out that I worked for the police myself, they started appealing to me as a fellow police employee. They said it was a waste of time for them to investigate a domestic violence case, that they wouldn't get any bonuses for this.
It was pity of the kind which said 'poor little thing, she doesn't know how to handle men'.
Most people around me disapproved of me. They said this was a family matter and it shouldn't be made public. If I failed to find common ground with my husband, it was my problem. If he hit me, I was myself to blame. Had I found the right words, he would never have hit me, they said. Some felt pity for me, but it was pity of the kind which went "poor little thing, she just doesn't know how to handle men".
The legislation concerning domestic violence needs to change. The state should start supporting women in such situations. There are already crisis centres that support women, but they can do very little until the law changes.


Masha was raped like a "chunk of meat" in front of her children.
It started out as a nice marriage. We had two children. Then my husband started to change, as he was getting more money and more power. And I was just a housewife, at home with the children and pots and pans.
We started to have scenes. Then he started hitting me. I kept it to myself, I didn't want to tell anyone. I tried to drown my grief in alcohol. Then he stopped seeing me as human.
Once he raped me in a perverted fashion in front of the children. He beat me first and then he raped the "hunk of meat" that he considered me to be.
I am happy with my life now but there are no guarantees I won't end up on the streets again.
After this I broke up with him and started binge-drinking. He set the police against me and eventually they came and took me away. When the police let me go I came back to a locked door of the flat I shared with my husband. I was without my things, without documents, without any money.
I was homeless on the streets of St Petersburg for several years. Eventually I got really ill and doctors referred me to a crisis centre for women. They helped me get new documents and find a job where I can live in a dormitory room.
I tried to get in touch with my children, I sent them presents and tried to inquire through friends, but at the moment they don't want to see me. I'm happy with my life now: just to have a roof over my head, even if it is only a small dormitory room. There are no guarantees, of course, that I won't end up on the streets again. And this is what frightens me. I don't think I will survive this a second time.



Mantovani said she "owed it to the people closest to me" to speak out. Luciano Pavarotti's widow Nicoletta Mantovani is suing two of the late opera star's friends for defamation.
The move comes weeks after Ms Mantovani, 37, attacked the Italian media for reporting "unseemly gossip" about her marriage to the tenor.
"Since the comments did not cease - and were, in fact, reiterated - Mantovani had no choice but to file the lawsuit," said her lawyer, Anna Maria Bernini.
Pavarotti died aged 71 in Modena, northern Italy, in September.
The two people named in the legal case are Franca Corfini Strata, the wife of the late singer's dietician, and Lidia La Marca, who is married to conductor Leone Magiera.
Ms Mantovani is seeking 15 million euros (£10.7m) in damages from each, and intends to to donate any award to charity, Ms Benini said.
Neither woman was available for comment, and no date has been set for a hearing.

Pavarotti died at his home in Modena, Italy. Pavarotti had one child, Alice, with Ms Mantovani, who was his second wife.
In his will, the performer left half of his estate to Ms Mantovani - formerly his personal assistant - and half to his four daughters.
Speaking to Italy's RAI state TV in October, Ms Mantovani said she wanted to leave her daughter with solid evidence she had defended herself and Pavarotti from press gossip.
She denied being left in debt or that she was squabbling with his three adult daughters over his will.
"I'm here and can defend myself. But Luciano can't, and Alice is a four-year-old child," she said.
Pavarotti was famed for helping to popularise opera, particularly through his signature tune, Nessun Dorma, which became associated with the 1990 World Cup.
His performances with Placido Domingo and Jose Carerras at this time - in the Three Tenors concerts - were seen around the world.
The singer died at his home in Modena, northern Italy, having being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006.



African nations are looking to boost their exports to key markets. The five countries that make up the East African Community have agreed a plan that will gradually open their markets to the European Union (EU).
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda are covered by the EU deal.
The new agreement will replace preferential trade obligations, which are due to expire in December and hae proved controversial in recent years.
A number of other nations in Western Africa, and some Pacific nations, have yet to accept the new arrangements.

The East African Community (EAC) trading bloc has agreed to "gradually open their markets to goods from the EU over a period of 25 years", an EU official said.
Depsite giving European firms more access to their markets, some industries will still be protected from competition to prevent local businesses from going bankrupt.
Under the terms of the new deal, about a fifth of EAC trade would still be exempt from the requirement to lower customs duties.
Industrial products and agriculture are among the sectors that are to be given extra protection.
The EU said that negotiations would continue next year in an effort to have a more comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in place by 2009.

The new deals will replace earlier preferential trade obligations, which have been heavily criticised by other nations, particularly those in Latin America.
They have been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization and the 27 members of the trade bloc have until the end of the year to establish new arrangements with partners.
But it is not thought that all 80 nations in Europe's former African, Caribbean and Pacific colonies will have signed up to the EPAs by 1 January because there is still a lot of opposition to the deals.
Critics argue that the EPAs could damage developing economies by cutting their customs revenue and making it harder for local businesses to compete with larger foreign rivals.



By Jonathan Fildes Science and technology reporter, BBC News.

The government of Nigeria is still assessing the scheme.

Laptop in Nigeria

A lack of "big thinking" by politicians has stifled a scheme to distribute laptops to children in the developing world, a spokesman has said. Walter Bender of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) said politicians were unwilling to commit because "change equals risk". But, he said, there needed to be a "dramatic change" because education in many countries was "failing" children.

In an interview with the BBC, Nigeria's education minister questioned the need for laptops in poorly equipped schools. Dr Igwe Aja-Nwachuku said: "What is the essence of introducing One Laptop per Child when they don't have seats to sit down and learn; when they don't have uniforms to go to school in, where they don't have facilities?" "We are more interested in laying a very solid foundation for quality education which will be efficient, effective, accessible and affordable." The previous government of Nigeria had committed to buying one million laptops. Dr Aja-Nwachuku said he was now assessing OLPC alongside other schemes from Microsoft and Intel. "We are asking whether this is the most critical thing to drive education."

But speaking separately to BBC News, Professor Bender said: "We think that change has to be dramatic." "You've got to be big, you've got to be bold. And what has happened is that there has been an effort to say 'don't take any risks - just do something small, something incremental'." "It feels safe but by definition what you are ensuring is that nothing happens." OLPC was started in 2002 by Nicholas Negroponte, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It aims to put thousands of low-cost laptops, known as the XO, in the hands of children around the world. The machines are planned to cost $100 and have been especially designed for use in remote and harsh environments where there is little access to electricity or the internet. But getting the project off the ground has proved difficult.

Professor Negroponte has had high profile run-ins with major technology firms. He told an audience at a Linux event: "if I am annoying Microsoft and Intel then I figure I am doing something right." Microsoft head Bill Gates had questioned the XOs design, particularly the lack of hard drive and its "tiny screen". But recently, the firm announced that it was working on a version of Windows XP that would run on the pared down machines.

"We are spending a non-trivial amount of money," Microsoft's Will Poole told Reuters. Earlier this year, Professor Negroponte also accused Intel of selling its own cut-price laptop - the Classmate - below cost price to drive him out of markets. He said that Intel "should be ashamed of itself" and said its tactics had hurt his mission "enormously". Within weeks it was announced that Intel had joined the board of OLPC amid speculation that the firm was unhappy about the XO using a processor from its main rival AMD.

Although these episodes now appear to be behind OLPC, Professor Bender said there was still an "aggressive" effort to undermine the charity. "There is still a concerted misinformation campaign out there," he said. Mr Bender said he would not speculate on who was behind the alleged campaign. "Wherever it is coming from, it exists," he told BBC News. But he said the main problem for OLPC was dealing with conservative politicians. "Change equals risk especially for politicians. And we are certainly advocating change because the [education] system is failing these children," he said. "It has not been that processor versus that processor or that operating system versus that operating system - it's been small thinking versus big thinking. That's really the issue," he said.

Originally, the laptops were to be sold to governments in lots of one million for $100 apiece. Over time, however, the project has dropped the minimum number of machines that can be ordered, leading some to speculate that governments were not buying into the scheme.

Factfile: XO laptop

The project also recently launched an initiative to allow citizens of North America to buy two machines at a time; one for themselves and one for a child in a developing country. But Mr Bender said the shift was because of a better understanding of how to distribute smaller numbers cheaply and effectively, rather than a lack of orders. "Part of it was our understanding of how the supply chain was going to work and having enough flexibility in the supply chain to make it work with a small number," he said. "The big numbers were really about how you get this thing started not how you make it work in the long term. "That was always going to be about supporting any good idea that comes along. And we've been able to get it started without the big top down numbers so we are off and running."

Since the scheme was first announced in 2002 there have been reports of several countries signing up to it. Both Nigeria and Libya were reported to have ordered more than one million laptops. Other countries including Thailand and Pakistan had also placed orders, according to reports. But recently, OLPC revealed it had just taken its first order for 100,000 of the machines, placed by the government of Uruguay. "Uruguay is first then it will be Peru, Mexico, Ethiopia then we are going to be doing stuff in Haiti, Rwanda and Mongolia," said Mr Bender. In addition, he said, OLPC had done a deal with Birmingham, Alabama, in the US, to provide the laptop for schools in the city. "The numbers of countries where we have trials set up is also increasing," he said.

Tests were also going on in the Solomon Islands, Nepal and India, a country that had previously shunned the scheme. The Indian Ministry of Education had previously dismissed the laptop as "pedagogically suspect", whilst the Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee said the country needed "classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools".

The first machines will cost almost double the $100 originally planned. The high price has been blamed on the increasing cost of the raw materials for the components inside the XO. Each machine currently costs $188. "The price will come down as the numbers go up. It will take time but it will happen," said Mr Bender. The manufacturer of the laptop - Quanta - recently revealed it had started mass production of the machines, after a number of delays. Previously, OLPC had said it needed three million orders to make production feasible. Professor Negroponte said it was an important milestone that had been reached despite "all the naysayers". "We're not turning back - we have passed the point of no return," said Mr Bender. "It is happening."


Monday, November 26, 2007


A look at what could be dominating the headlines around the world this week - and some key background on those events.


BBC economics guru Evan Davis blogs stateside as the US dollar slides
A series of features exploring China's involvement in Africa
Reports from Russia in the run-up to Sunday's election.

Troika meeting: The EU, Russia and the US hold their final set of talks with Serb and Kosovo Albanian leaders over the future status of the province of Kosovo.
Race against time

Peace project: The former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, is to be presented with the first Mo Ibrahim prize for excellence in leadership.
Mozambique ex-leader wins prize

Not plain sailing: A two-day peace conference takes place at the US Navy base of Annapolis, in Maryland. Arab countries confirmed their attendance only late last week after failing to win guarantees of Israeli concessions.
Rice sets Mid-East peace target

The Index: The United Nations Development Programme publishes its flagship Human Development Report, which ranks the countries of the world according to a wide range of social and economic indicators.
Inequality 'key to poverty fight'

Street style: British Fashion Awards are given to the brightest of the UK's style industry at a ceremony in London.
R4 Women's Hour: Is London lagging behind?

Computerised care: Tokyo's Waseda University unveils a robot designed to take care of the country's growing number of old people safely.
Japan eyes demographic time bomb


China is one of the EU's biggest trading partnersBeijing business: European Union leaders begin a summit in the Chinese capital aimed at resolving trade tensions between the Asian giant and the world's biggest free trade area.
China and EU hold treaty talks

Shelling out: An intricately decorated Faberge egg, made for the Rothschild banking family in 1902 and containing an animated cockerel, is to be auctioned at Christies in London.
In pictures: Faberge treasures

Blood and grass: The European Union hosts a conference on sport and violence with UEFA to suggest ways to tackle violence in football and other sports.
Italian league halted by violence

Ice rink trial: The trial opens in Traunstein, Germany, of four people involved in the construction of the Bad Reichenhall ice rink. Fifteen people were killed when the roof of the structure collapsed under heavy snow in 2006.
German ice rink collapses

Drawing lines: Thursday marks the 60th anniversary of the UN adoption of a partition plan for Palestine, then under a British mandate. The plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians, was never implemented.
Country profile: Israel and the Occupied Territories


Ms Knox has changed her story about what happened several times. Student murder: A closed-door hearing is to take place in the central Italian town of Perugia. Lawyers for US student Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito - both prime suspects in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher - are requesting their release.
Flatmate 'heard Meredith scream'

World Aids Day: A series of global events to highlight the issues surrounding the spread of HIV/Aids. This year will focus on the importance of leaders in tackling the epidemic.
World Service: World Aids Day 2006

Counting faces: The Palestinian Authority is to carry out the first census of the Occupied Territories for a decade. The area is among the world's most densely populated.

Long leadership: The President of Gabon, Omar Bongo Ondimba, marks four decades in power with celebrations in the capital, Libreville.
Gabon's president for life

Moscow votes: Polling in Russia's parliamentary election takes place. Among the candidates are President Vladimir Putin and the man British police suspect of killing former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, Andrei Lugovoi.
Russia's levers of power



Gillian Gibbons had been working in Khartoum since August. A British school teacher has been arrested in Sudan accused of insulting Islam's Prophet, after she allowed her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad. Colleagues of Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, said she made an "innocent mistake" by letting the six and seven-year-olds choose the name. Ms Gibbons was arrested after several parents made complaints.

A spokesman from the British Embassy in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, said it was unclear whether she had been charged. Embassy officials are expected to visit Ms Gibbons in custody later. "We are in contact with the authorities here and they have visited the teacher and she is in a good condition," an embassy spokesman said. The spokesman said the naming of the teddy happened months ago and was chosen by the children because it is a common name in the country.

"This happened in September and the parents did not have a problem with it," he said. The BBC's correspondent Amber Henshaw said Ms Gibbons' punishment could be up to six months in jail, 40 lashes or a fine. The school has been closed until January for fear of reprisals. Fellow teachers at Khartoum's Unity High School told Reuters news agency they feared for Ms Gibbons' safety after receiving reports that men had started gathering outside the police station where she was being held. This was a completely innocent mistake. Miss Gibbons would have never wanted to insult Islam."

Mr Boulos said Ms Gibbons was following a British national curriculum course designed to teach young pupils about animals and this year's topic was the bear. So Ms Gibbons, who joined the school in August, asked a seven-year-old girl to bring in her teddy bear and asked the class to pick names for it, he said. "They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad," Mr Boulos said. "Then she explained what it meant to vote and asked them to choose the name." Twenty out of the 23 children chose Muhammad as their favourite name. Mr Boulos said each child was then allowed to take the bear home at weekends and told to write a diary about what they did with it.

He said the children's entries were collected in a book with a picture of the bear on the cover and a message which read, "My name is Muhammad." The bear itself was not marked or labelled with the name in any way, he added. It is seen as an insult to Islam to attempt to make an image of the Prophet Muhammad. Mr Boulos said Ms Gibbons was arrested on Sunday at her home inside the school premises after a number of parents complained to Sudan's Ministry of Education.

He said police had seized the book and asked to interview the girl who owned the bear. The country's state-controlled Sudanese Media Centre reported that charges were being prepared "under article 125 of the criminal law" which covers insults against faith and religion. No-one at the ministries of education or justice was available for comment. One Muslim teacher at the school, who also has a child in Ms Gibbons' class, said she had not found the project offensive. "I had no problem with it at all," the teacher said. "I know Gillian and she would never have meant it as an insult. I was just impressed that she got them to vote."

Unity is an independent school for Christian and Muslim children and is governed by a board representing major Christian denominations in Sudan. Cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad printed in several European newspapers sparked violent protests around the world in 2006.



Friend or foe?
Mineral trade
Have Your Say

In the first of a series on China's new relationship with Africa, the BBC's Adam Blenford looks at how their economic interests coincide. The next piece looks at the Chinese firms rebuilding the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. In almost every corner of Africa there is something that interests China. The continent is rich in natural resources that promise to keep China's booming, fuel-hungry economy on the road. There is copper to mine in Zambia, iron ore to extract in Gabon and oil to refine in Angola. In other countries less blessed by natural resources, Chinese companies have spied trading and investment opportunities.

See a map of China's investment in Africa

Africa's need for new and better roads, school buildings, computer networks, telecoms systems and power generation has opened a lucrative window of opportunity for Chinese firms. The new Sino-African dynamic can leave the West ill at ease, reviving memories of Europe's colonial domination in Africa and drawing complaints that low Chinese bids are freezing out Western companies.
China also offers "no-strings" aid, a marked contrast to Western donors who impose conditions on aid and tie trade sweeteners to human rights issues. Critics say China's approach has emboldened unsavoury governments, allowing them to ignore Western calls for reform, safe in the knowledge that Beijing will take up the slack. Sudan, with its vast oil reserves, is the number one recipient of Chinese investment, and sells some two-thirds of its oil to Beijing. As a result, China has been criticised for its links with a government ostracised by many for its role in the ongoing crisis in Darfur.
Elsewhere, stories of anti-Chinese unrest in Zambia and the killing of nine Chinese oil workers by rebels in Ethiopia's Ogaden region have focused Beijing's attention on the price it might have to pay for its African adventure. The Chinese insist they are not interested in dominating Africa.
Instead China says it seeks a "harmonious world", an evolution of its Cold War search for "peaceful co-existence", and it wants to coax African countries along the path towards development.

Instead of top-down aid projects, Chinese companies seek profits in Africa as they bequeath the continent a new infrastructure - one that will more than likely to be used to increase trade with China. "China consistently respects and supports African countries," Yan Xiao Gang, China's economic attache in Ethiopia, told the BBC. "It never imposes its own will on African countries, nor interferes in the domestic affairs of African countries." Ethiopian officials speak of "owning" their country's development, but do admit that major contracts usually go to Chinese firms because of their ability to keep costs down.

Many Chinese firms use large numbers of local workers but wages remain low. However, there is evidence that workers are learning new skills because of the availability of Chinese-funded work. Taking advantage of low labour costs, the Chinese are also building factories across Africa.
Observers say Beijing appears ready for the long haul in Africa. "For China to become a major power it needs to continue its double-digit economic growth of recent years. For this it needs energy and markets," Prof M Venkataraman, of the University of Addis Ababa, told the BBC. Those markets are proving receptive, and trade with the continent is famously booming - up to $40bn in 2004, a tenfold increase in under a decade.

Yet most African countries now have a growing trade deficit with China, in spite of favourable tax-free trading agreements. Ethiopian exports to China reached $132m (£63m) in 2006, a figure dwarfed by the value of Chinese imports of $432m (£206m). "It is not clear what the long-term effect of the Chinese projects will be," said Mr Venkataraman. "But the facts are very clear - there are going to be benefits to both sides. China is going to remain in this continent for a very long time." The China-Africa relationship shot to attention in November 2006 when 48 African heads of government attended a forum in Beijing. China's capital was festooned with images of exotic Africa for the occasion. Speeches were made and deals were struck.

See China's $150m gift to the African Union
Enlarge Image

Tsegab Kebebew, a senior official in Ethiopia's foreign ministry, was in Beijing for the meeting. One year on, he remains enthused about the relationship. "This is a new strategic partnership. There is no colonial history between Africa and China, so they are well received here," he told the BBC. "There is no psychological bias against the Chinese." In fact China has a history of involvement in Africa, and undertook major aid project in the 1960s and 1970s. Among Beijing's gifts was a railroad linking Zambia and Tanzania, now scheduled to be rebuilt by a Chinese company.

China's gifts to modern-day Africa will soon include a gleaming new conference centre at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa - a symbol of Beijing's commitment to African development, says Mr Yan of the Chinese embassy. There is symbolism in the shops, too. With Ethiopia only now marking the turn of its millennium, seven years after the rest of the world, the country is in the grip of a 12-month millennium frenzy. Banners adorn public buildings and souvenirs are on sale in many shops. The government hopes the outbreak of national pride can spur Ethiopia to a new age of prosperity. Those browsing a local market for, say, a souvenir plate bearing the legend "Ethiopian Millennium 2000" would do well to turn the gift over and look underneath.

Embossed on the white plastic is a phrase already familiar to all in the West: "Made in China".



Jacob Zuma is seen as less business friendly than Mbeki. South Africa's former Deputy President Jacob Zuma is ahead in the race to become the next African National Congress leader, local media report.
He has reportedly secured the backing of five provinces, while the other four backed President Thabo Mbeki.
Winning the party leadership would make Mr Zuma favourite to become South Africa's president in 2009.
The leadership election will be conducted by secret ballot at the ANC's national conference next month.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says the weekend provincial results are the "hardest information" to date on how the 4,075 ANC voting delegates are likely to cast their votes.
Mr Zuma secured 2,270 votes while 1,396 went to Mr Mbeki, said 702 Talk Radio.
But the ANC says it has not received the official nominations.
Analysts say these results are bad news for Mr Mbeki.
"This is a rejection of Thabo Mbeki by the ANC," said Pretoria-based political commentator Xolela Mangcu, according to the AFP news agency.

Top figure in fight against apartheid
Seen as less business-friendly than Mbeki
Sacked as deputy president in 2005
Corruption trial stopped
Acquitted on rape charges
According to Susan Booysen of Johannesburg's Wits University: "I can't see how this cannot be the end of Mbeki's candidacy."
The BBC's Peter Greste in Johannesburg says the ANC has rarely faced a leadership contest as divisive as this one and that everything rests on the result of the secret ballot at the 16-20 December conference in Polokwane.
If there is deadlock, our correspondent says it will open up the possibility of a compromise candidate, such as Cyril Ramaphosa or Tokyo Sexwale, around whom the ANC can unite.
SABC says Mr Zuma got overwhelming support from the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday evening.
In his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, he got 580 votes to Mr Mbeki's nine, while in Gauteng he got 263 votes against 94 for the current president.
The provinces of Mpumalanga, Free State and Northern Cape have also indicated they will back Mr Zuma, who already enjoys the support of the ANC Youth League and the powerful Confederation of South African Trades Unions (Cosatu).
Mr Mbeki has so far won nominations from the Eastern and Western Cape, Limpopo and the North West.
He is stepping down as national leader in 2009 after serving two terms but observers say remaining ANC leader would leave him in a strong position to decide who becomes South Africa's next president.
Some ANC supporters and officials say Mr Mbeki is too business-friendly and want the government to do more to help the poor.
Mr Zuma was sacked as deputy leader in 2005, amid allegations of corruption.
The corruption trial was stopped but charges may be brought once more.
He was also charged with rape but acquitted.
Mr Zuma's supporters say the charges were designed to sideline him from the leadership race.


Sunday, November 25, 2007





All passengers from the Explorer are safe. The last of the passengers and crew rescued from a shipwreck in Antarctica have been flown back to mainland Chile. A military plane transported a group of 77 people from a refuge in the Antarctic to Punta Arenas, where another 77 had been flown on Saturday. Some members of the first group have gone on to the capital, Santiago, and are due to start flying home soon. A total of 154 people had to take to lifeboats after their ship hit an iceberg on Friday and later sank.

A Chilean air force spokesman said that while in the military barracks on King George island, the tourists had been "doing very well and some of them have been in touch with their families via the internet".

Some 23 Britons, 17 Dutch and 13 Americans were among those on board the ship. There were also 10 Australians and 10 Canadians and other nationalities included Irish, Danish, Swiss, Belgian, Japanese, French, German and Chinese, said Gap Adventures, the Toronto-based tour company. The tour group had embarked from Ushuaia, on Argentina's southern tip, on 11 November for a 19-day "Spirit of Shackleton" cruise through the Drake Passage, costing from around $8,000 (£3,900) per cabin.

Graphic: Key facts about M/S Explorer
The ship, the Explorer, ran into trouble approximately 120km (75 miles) north of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Cruise ship 'fit'
Worldwide rescue hub

The company said pumps had been used in an effort to stop the ship sinking, but in the meantime the captain gave the order to abandon ship, and passengers were transferred to lifeboats. After several hours bobbing on the sea amid floating sheets of ice, they were plucked to safety by the Norwegian cruise ship, the Nordnorge. Coastguards said although the weather conditions were good for this time of year, the average temperature was still -5C.

Passenger Gillian Plant, 40, of Manchester, England, praised the ship's captain for the way the evacuation was handled. She told the BBC News website on Saturday: "There was no panic at all and no injuries. Everybody is perfect, no bruises, no scratches." She said the evacuees, clad in protective suits, passed the four-and-a-half-hour wait to be rescued by watching for whales. Argentine guide Andrea Salas, who was also on the ship, told Argentina's Radio Continental she was in the bar having a drink "when two passengers from the cabins down below came in wet, shouting: 'There's water, there's water!' "We ran out to see what was happening - and there was this hole in the cabins down below. The cabins were already quite flooded." She said: "There were people suffering from hypothermia and it felt like an eternity until the boats came to the rescue."

Following the news of the incident, the specialist Lloyds List maritime publication said the 2,400-tonne Explorer had had five faults at its last inspection. However, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), whose inspectors found the faults, said that they had all been rectified by the time the ship set sail again.


Built: 1969, FinlandCapacity: 100 passengersTonnage: 2,400
Cruising speed: 11 knotsEngines: 3,800 hp dieselsCrew: 54
First custom-built expedition ship
Known as the 'Little Red Ship' to aficionados
Became the first passenger vessel to navigate the North West passage in 1984
Involved in rescue of crew from Argentine cargo vessel off Anvers Island, Antarctica, in 1989



Police carried out a major operation against Mungiki members in JuneA human-rights organisation has claimed that Kenyan police killed as many as 8,040 people by execution or torture during a crackdown on a banned sect.
The group said a further 4,070 people had gone missing as security forces tried to wipe out the Mungiki sect.
The deaths and disappearances occurred over five years up to August 2007, said the Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic-Kenya.
A Kenyan police spokesman has dismissed the report as "fictitious".
"The people disseminating it have a questionable character and motive," Eric Kiraithe told the Associated Press news agency.

Banned in 2002
Thought to be ethnic Kikuyu militants
Mungiki means multitude in Kikuyu
Inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s
Claim to have more than 1m followers
Promote female circumcision and oath-taking
Believed to be linked to high-profile politicians
Control public transport routes, demanding levies
Blamed for revenge murders in the central region

The report said Kenya's General Service Unit carried out the killings during operations in slum areas.
The document was based on interviews with relatives, autopsy reports, and police and other records.
It comes shortly after the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights linked police to the execution-style deaths of nearly 500 Mungiki in a crackdown on the sect carried out over the last five months.
The police have said criminals are responsible.
The allegations of extrajudicial killings are being made at a politically sensitive time, just weeks before Kenya's presidential elections.
Police moved against the Mungiki after they terrorised parts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi and the centre of the country earlier this year.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter From Zimbabwe !

Own goals.

Saturday 24th November 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

When I saw people running down the pavement I knew that some precious basic commodity must have arrived and that this rush was the start of the queue. I stepped out of the way so as not to get knocked down and carried on walking. I was amazed to see people pushing and jostling to get a place in line to buy the State controlled daily newspaper. This sudden enthusiasm for a dose of the latest propaganda has apparently got nothing to do with the government pronouncements but is related to the chronic national shortage of toilet paper. Not only does the newspaper double as toilet paper, it is also cheaper with one day's edition of propaganda costing less than a roll of loo paper.

I count myself very lucky that a neighbour hands me down two second hand independent newspapers every week - not because I want toilet paper but because these newspapers are now almost impossible to obtain - even more so than the State controlled ones. When the independent papers arrive in the town on a Friday morning you've got about half an hour to get to the roadside vendors before all their copies are sold out and then its another long week to wait for the next taste of the truth. To exacerbate this crazy situation, the government's price controllers recently ordered the Zimbabwe Independent to cut their price from 600 to 150 thousand dollars . This undoubtedly pushes the paper rapidly to the edge of bankruptcy, even less copies are printed and this means that the 10 or more people reading one carefully handed down newspaper are without information - and the last one without toilet paper!

All is not lost however because we still have Short Wave Radio Africa and night after night more and more Zimbabweans are sitting in the dark of the power cuts, using wind up radios and juggling between the two SW Radio Africa channels - depending on which is being jammed that night. Here at least people speak freely, not subject to State controls or even the self censorship we have all made a part of our existence in order to survive.Its ridiculous to think that we have to listen to a radio station broadcasting from London to hear news of events in our country but we do. The reports might be grim, the news depressing and the stories heartbreaking but at least they are an accurate reflection of everyday life in Zimbabwe.

It doesn't matter what kind of a spin the Zimbabwean authorities put on their TV and newspaper reports, they are so far from the glaringly obvious situation on the ground that no one at all believes them anymore. One outstanding example this week came when the President was shown on TV news addressing a gathering near Victoria Falls. He told the audience that he knew people were not getting enough bread but that they should be patient, not lose faith and trust the Government.

What shortage of bread? Surely that should be "what bread?" It might be selling on the black market for 700 thousand dollars a loaf but most everyone I know hasn't been able to buy bread for over three months. Zimbabwe's government has mastered the art of own goals and forcing us to look outside for real news of events inside is surely a classic.

Until next week, thanks for reading,
love cathy.



By Kim Ghattas BBC News, Beirut.

Lahoud's exit has been welcomed by some, but the future is uncertain. The Lebanese woke up on Saturday to a country without a president, with a bitter row raging about who is in charge.

Amidst all the confusion, two things look certain: the country is in a state of political limbo but there are no signs of a state of emergency, despite the warnings of outgoing pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud. He issued a convoluted statement just a few hours before he left the presidential palace, with his family, surrounded by guards and to the sounds of a marching band.
Earlier in the day, rival anti- and pro-Syrian blocs in parliament had failed yet again to elect a successor after a fifth attempt, and a new session has now been scheduled for 30 November.

In the Lebanese capital, people seem to go about their business as usual, shops are open and one popular cafe was full of people having breakfast, sipping on cappuccinos and enjoying the sunny weather on the terrace. A nearby farmers market was also abuzz with activity. Many Lebanese breathed a sigh of relief and even celebrated with fireworks the departure of a man they saw as the last remnant of Syria's influence over Lebanon.

For the Hezbollah-led opposition, Mr Lahoud was an ally who supported their right to bear arms against Israel. It was unclear whether a state of emergency was in force. Soldiers are visible on the streets, but the army has been deployed in Beirut for a year now, since the start of the stand off between the government and the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority on the one hand and the opposition, backed by Syrian and Iran on the other.

Troop reinforcements had also been brought into the capital ahead of the scheduled vote in parliament to elect a president on Friday, a vote that never happened but there were no unusual troop movements overnight. The presidential statement, which said that "conditions and dangers of the state of emergency existed on the ground" and entrusted "the security of the country to the army and put all armed forces at its disposal", was seized upon by the opposition.
Local television stations loyal to the opposition immediately flashed news captions on their screens saying a state of emergency had been declared, while members of the pro-Syrian bloc gave interviews confirming the state of emergency.

Meanwhile, media loyal to the government said this was not the case and interviewed members of the parliamentary majority and analysts who deconstructed the statement to back their claims. The cabinet also dismissed the decree as meaningless. According to the constitution the president cannot declare a state of emergency without the approval of the cabinet. With no successor for Mr Lahoud, the cabinet assumes executive powers and is entrusted with ensuring the swift election of a new president.

The vague statement was the parting shot of a controversial leader, a staunch ally of Syria, who had long warned he would not hand over power to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, whose legitimacy he had contested. If anything, the confusion reflected even further the deep divisions that have plagued Lebanon for some three years. A statement yesterday from the prime minister's offices said the cabinet would continue to shoulder its responsibilities and exercise its full authority. There has been no comment from the army so far but the cabinet said it has been co-ordinating with the army.

The presidential vacuum is viewed with worry by some of Lebanon's minority Christian community. Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East with a Christian president, the post of prime minister is always reserved for a Sunni, while that of speaker of the House goes to a Shia. But the presidential seat is now vacant for at least a week and there is no guarantee that the next scheduled session will produce a president.

In a move that was seen as an attempt to allay Christian fears, Mr Siniora paid a visit to the Maronite patriarch on Saturday. On his way out he said no-one was trying to usurp the post of president and that he more than anyone else wanted an election. He also said the patriarch had assured him of his support. It is still unclear what the opposition might do next. It has made threatening noises for a while and talked about taking to the streets with more demonstrations. But it is expected that no-one will take any radical steps until after the US-sponsored Middle East peace meeting in Annapolis next week.

The crisis in Lebanon is widely seen as an extension of the regional confrontation pitting the United States against Iran and Lebanon's former powerbroker, Syria. Progress in Annapolis might help break the deadlock in Lebanon over the choice of a president. Until then, Washington has given its full backing to the cabinet of Mr Siniora, while Tehran has warned that Lebanon is close to civil war.



By Gary Duffy BBC News, Sao Paulo.

Brazilian jails have a long history of violence and overcrowding.It sometimes seems that there is little left to say about prisons and the system of detention in Brazil that still has the capacity to shock. Even so, the report that a young woman, possibly as young as 15, was left to share a cell in a police station with around 20 men and is said to have been repeatedly sexually abused, does stand out for its sheer horror.
The fact that police officers involved then started to dispute her age, as if it mattered whether she was 15 or 20, does say something about the inability to grasp the scale of what had been done. The girl does not appear to have been helped by the involvement in the case of women officials at various levels.
According to Brazilian media reports the officer in charge of the station where the case was processed was a woman, who has since been suspended, while a woman judge who dealt with the case did not authorise a transfer. The governor of the state of Para, where the incident happened, is also a woman.

21 Oct: Police arrest girl for allegedly stealing and send her to a cell in a police station in Abaetetuba
5 Nov: Police chief asks for transfer to women's prison in city of Belem
14 Nov: Official responsible for child welfare discovers girl. She is taken to a room from where she escapes
16 Nov: Girl is found and sent to centre for young offenders in Belem
Source: Folha de Sao Paulo

"I am shocked and angry," Governor Ana Julia Carepa told the Brazilian media. "My political life was always dedicated to the defence of human rights and it would not be different in my administration." As an effort continues to shift blame for what happened, the civil police of Para say that the judicial officials knew that the girl was being held with a large number of male prisoners.
They have produced a document which suggests a request was made to transfer the girl to a centre for young offenders on 7 November, at least a week before she was discovered by an official responsible for child welfare. The discovery was only made after an anonymous tip-off. The document - presented to the judge - requested the urgent transfer of the young woman to a detention centre for women, and said that she ran the risk of "any type of violence".

The police request for a transfer was only made after the girl had been in custody for 15 days, and in total she was held for 26 days, according to the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. Welfare officials say the girl reported that she had suffered sexual abuse from about 20 prisoners and had to offer sex in return for food. She also showed marks of cigarette burns on her body.

Brazilian prisons have long had a reputation for violence, appalling conditions and overcrowding.
Criminals using mobile phones in their cells are even able to directly organise crimes outside. In August, 25 prisoners died after fellow inmates set fire to mattresses in a cell in a jail in the state of Minas Gerais. The most notorious case in recent Brazilian history happened in 1992 following a riot in Carandiru jail in Sao Paulo when 111 prisoners were killed, the vast majority shot by military police.

In 2002 alone, 303 inmates were murdered by other prisoners. A preliminary report from the United Nations Committee Against Torture, released on Friday, makes a grim analysis of the state of Brazilian prisons. It speaks of endemic overcrowding, filthy conditions and pervasive violence, as well as torture "meted out on a widespread and systematic basis". Part of the problem is that Brazil does not have a federal prison system and all prisons are run by the 27 different systems, although they are governed by a single penal law.

Between 1995 and 2003, the number of prisoners in the system more than doubled, from 148,760 to 308,304 men and women. More than 100,000 new prison spaces were created but the country still has a huge deficit. In recent years as many as 25% of prisoners have been held in police cells due to shortage of space, even though this is illegal. In some states the figure is even higher. While the number of women in Brazilian jails is in line with other countries, it is clear that the level of overcrowding and violence means they can be extremely vulnerable.

Tim Cahill, Amnesty International's researcher on Brazil, said the organisation received extensive reports of women in detention who suffered sexual abuse, torture, substandard healthcare and inhuman conditions, showing that this case is far from isolated. "Even though women in Brazil make up a small percentage of the overall prison population, their numbers in detention are rising," he said. "There is a desperate need for the government to address their needs, which are rarely, if ever, met."

The security secretary for the state of Para, Vera Talvares, told Folha de Sao Paulo that any type of violation of a woman's rights was a violation of human rights and should receive exemplary punishment. If that resolve leads to a change in policy in Para, and in other parts of Brazil, it would at least be something, but past events do not leave much room for optimism.